Not Giving Up… by Alice
Our newest submission is from Alice.
So. My name is Alice, and I have depression. And anxiety. And ‘panic disorder’, apparently, though I’m still not entirely sure what the difference between that and anxiety is. I don’t know if you’ll want to use this for your blog, because nobody’s heard of me, and I’d rather you didn’t use my surname, so even if they had they wouldn’t know who I was. But I’m an atheist, and a scientist, and I have depression.
I was diagnosed four years ago, when I was seventeen. Over the period of a few months my self-esteem (always fragile) had finally given up the ghost and left me. I was crying at everything, I was sure I would fail my college courses and I felt utterly alone. One day things finally got too much, and I called my dad to come pick me up. I cried the whole way home, and told him I needed to go to the doctor, because I didn’t like the person I was becoming. Of course, back then, I had no idea of just how bad things would get. I could not possibly imagine the person my illness would force me to become.
Over the course of my illness I have become a different person. I became a complete recluse. I would lie curled up on my bed facing the wall and sobbing silently while I waited for my friends to go away because I could not face the idea of telling them I was having a bad day. Again. I had my first panic attack in public, and was utterly convinced I would die. Worse, I wasn’t sure that was the worst thing that could happen to me. I spent countless hours in toilet stalls, waiting to be able to breathe properly and not cry so I could rejoin the world. My life has changed irrevocably, and I can never go back to how I was before.
Being an atheist throughout this has not been easy. Sometimes I wish that I did believe in some kind of higher power. I’ve been told that God only sends people as much pain as they can take. I wish I had any belief in God because that would mean believing that I can take this pain. But I don’t. Sometimes that’s been incredibly isolating. Without a God, the only person I can have faith in is me. And all too often I doubt my own ability to survive my brain’s assault. Whenever I’ve found myself in a church over the past few years, I have begged God to take my illness the hell away. When I was suicidal, the thought of an afterlife was attractive, although ultimately I chose not to face it. And now I’m getting better, I find my atheism increasingly comforting. I chose to live. I believe more in my own strength, my own desire to fight and my own sheer bloody-minded stubbornness, even in the face of my brain trying its level best to kill me.
I don’t know if I’m through the worst yet, although I believe (and I desperately hope) I am. The fight has been long, and it has been hard, and it is not over yet. I have a lot to learn about being healthy. I am, however, learning. I will continue to fight. And, above all, I want anyone who reads this, while fighting their own fight, to know that I’m right beside them, and I’m not giving up yet.